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Drugs shortage cripples hospitals

By Rael Jelimo | June 26th 2015

Residents are crying out for help as a serious shortage of drugs and medical supplies at hospitals and dispensaries takes its toll across the county.

Several major health facilities have been rendered nonoperational after they run out of basic drugs and medical supplies such as painkillers, needles and syringes and free condoms.

Patients have resorted to seeking alternative treatment at private hospitals in and outside the county.

Deaths have been reported in some corners of the county.

“I have received reports that six children died in my constituency this week after they suffered treatable malaria. There are no drugs in hospitals and dispensaries,” said Aldai MP Cornelly Serem.

This is in spite of the Sh130 million set aside by the county government for procurement of drugs in the 2014/2015 financial year.

Governor Cleophas Lagat has blamed it all on a syndicate of health workers in the county who he accuses of stealing drugs and other medical supplies for sale in their private outlets.

“I am appalled at the serious shortage of drugs and medical supplies in hospitals across Nandi. Our budget for medical supplies this financial year was about 10 times more than what Nandi health institutions received before devolution,” he claimed.

Kapsabet town has witnessed an influx of chemists, with more than 20 new ones having been opened after the onset of devolution.

“Doctors at Kapsabet County Referral Hospital referred me to particular chemists to buy drugs. I can barely afford my family’s regular medical expenses. I buy everything at county hospitals including painkillers and needles,” said a patient.

But on Tuesday, health workers marched to the office of the county executive for health to protest the governor’s utterances.

They accused the governor of shifting blame despite delivering only one-third of the needed drugs and other supplies.

“We receive one-third of supplies of what hospitals and dispensaries would normally receive. If chemists are mushrooming in the county since devolution, it is because of demand, not theft,” said Christine Bii, who led the protest.

The governor’s communication office, however, told The Standard that the county lacked proper structures and rules to ensure efficient distribution and use of drugs across dispensaries and hospitals.

“We lack a supervisory body. While sufficient drugs are being distributed to hospitals and dispensaries, there is no supervision on their use,” said Gideon Birgen, the governor’s communication officer.

Children dying

Mr Birgen said the county had decided to increase budget allocations for procurement of drugs and medical supplies in the 2015/2016 financial year to Sh300 million.

“Our projected budget for medical supplies and drugs next financial year has been increased to Sh300 million. The county feels we would be able to cater sufficiently for all our hospitals’ needs this way,” he said.

Nandi Transparency Group Chairman Kiprotich Cherargey however trashed the proposed increase in budgetary allocation and accused the county health docket of being wasteful.

“This is a waste. If the county cannot supervise the good use of Sh130 million worth of drugs and medical supplies, how can it supervise Sh300 million worth of the same?” he posed.

Mr Cherargey claimed the county was involved in skewed procurement of drugs, including ordering insufficient drugs despite regularly increased budget allocations.

“How many medical workers have been arrested? How many have been fired or taken to court for stealing drugs? The governor is not telling Nandi residents the truth,” he said in reference to allegations of drugs theft.

Hospitals that are worst hit include Lolminingai Dispensary in Emgwen Constituency, which has been closed down completely for the last four days.

Others include Kabiyet, Maraba, Kamurguiywo, Biribiriet, Kabunyeria, Sangalo, Chemundu, Kaptumo, Mosoriot, Tabulwo and Chepterwai.

Residents in malaria-prone zones of Chemase and Botoboto have reported deaths of several children and one adult.

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